MacGyver Challenge: S.O.S.!

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MacGyver Challenge: S.O.S.!

Think you could MacGyver your way out of a dangerous situation?  Welcome to Make:’s MacGyver Challenge — solve this emergency scenario in a creative way and your solution could be featured in the next issue of Make: magazine! Submit your answer down below by January 7th.

Written by MacGyver TV creator Lee David Zlotoff and his partner in predicaments, Rhett Allain, here’s the new challenge: S.O.S.!  Share your best solutions below for a chance to be in the magazine and win some Make: goodies too.

Lee Z wrote the popular MakeShift challenge in Make: magazine from 2005 to 2011. Now we’re bringing Mac back to help you think — and make — your way out of natural disasters, power failures, and other emergencies. There seem to be a lot of them these days. As Lee writes in Make: Volume 82, “We are all MacGyvers now.”


By Lee D. Zlotoff and Rhett Allain

The Scenario

You, and two of the people on your team at work, have been burning the midnight oil for weeks to submit a project by the deadline — which you’ve met. And the project’s been approved. So, to celebrate and enjoy some much-needed R&R, the three of you head out for a day of ocean fishing on your well-appointed motorboat. What’s more, you’ve all agreed to leave your phones on shore to guarantee some time without screens. After a spectacular day with lots of freshly caught fish in the cooler, you discover that the engine won’t start. And, for all its bells and whistles — like a motorized anchor winch — your boat has no radio. And you can all see the skies are quickly darkening and there’s a storm headed your way.

The Challenge

Using whatever you can find from the boat and the list of items below, how can you come up with a way to signal for help before you and your mates become food for the fishes?

What You’ve Got
And it’s all you’ve got:

• Any part of the boat

• Flotation devices

• Fire extinguisher

• Drinking water

• Fishing gear

• Anchor and chain

• Snorkeling gear (but no scuba)

• A 5-gallon container of gasoline plus whatever’s in the boat’s tank

• A basic tool kit, including a Swiss Army Knife

• Duct tape of course

• An unopened box of 30-gallon black trash bags

Share your best solutions below for a chance to be in the magazine and win some shwag too!  

Check out our previous challenge for some inspiration.

[feature image: Adobe stock – eveleen007]

11 thoughts on “MacGyver Challenge: S.O.S.!

  1. richard Wood says:

    Use the garbage bags duct tape and fishing gear plus some kind of Wood stick or fishing pole fiberglass rod to build the largest kite possible. Use more garbage bags to make an SOS in morse code as the tail so people can see you are in trouble. Use the gasoline ( diesel?) to form a smoke signal to further attract attention. Use fishing lines and reels for kite strings. This may also help propel the boat to shore depending on the wind. There will be wind preceding the storm.

  2. desertrat says:

    Use the fishing gear, salvaged boat wood and garbage bags to create a sail/spinnaker to use the prevailing winds to get to shore. Some of the remaining bags (less enough to create rain gear) can be used as a sea anchor to use the water’s currents- if gong in the right direction.

  3. Mac says:

    Step 1. Cut the trash bags’ sides so they can lie flat with the Swiss Army Knife
    Step 2. Stitch them together into a balloon with fishing line
    Step 3. Get the now empty box of trash bags and fireproof it by spraying the flame retardant on it from the fire extinguisher.
    Step 4. The tricky part. Tie the box below the balloon like a hot air balloon basket with more fishing line
    Step 5. Attach the very last of your fishing line to the bottom of the box.
    Step 6. Fill the box about a third full with gasoline.
    Step 7. Dig into the boat’s engine with your tools and find the spark plug.
    Step 8. Before you light the candle, duct tape three seats rigidly together and attach flotation devices to them. Put it in the water, just in case
    Step 9. Get the boats battery out
    Step 10. Get a bunch of wire as well
    Step 11. Attach the two longest wires to the spark plug and attach one to the battery.
    Step 12. Submerge the spark plug in the gasoline
    Step 13. Moment of truth. Tap the end of the unconnected wire to the other end of the battery
    Step 14 (First, more likely ending). The gasoline blows up, you jump overboard to the emergency life raft with third degree burns, and float towards an uncertain fate.
    Step 14 (Second, hopeful ending). The gasoline ignites to a nice blaze.
    Step 15. Whip around the balloon to fill it with air, then push it over the blaze.
    Step 16. The balloon fills with hot air and rises into the night. It rises hundreds of feet, and the blaze is visible for miles around. Tie the fishing line to the boat to keep it from drifting away.
    Step 17. Coast guard sees the light and rescues.
    Step 18. (Optional) Write a best selling book about your experiences and use the proceeds to buy a radio for your boat.

  4. frank says:

    don’t submerge the sparkplug. That is pretty much a fouled plug and the main reason many engines refuse to start.

  5. Bill B says:

    Presumably the boat has a battery to start the engine. Remove battery and the cables attached to it. Then remove cabling or use the chain to make an antenna. If there’s not enough cabling, the chain for the anchor will work. Could try anywhere between 1M and 30M should be fine. Just energize the chain/cable with 3 short contacts, 3 long, and 3 short. Then wait a few seconds and repeat. The most popular short range frequency is 2M, so a length of cable/chain could be 2M, 1M, or 0.5M (full wavelength, half, or quarter). If far out at sea you might want to try 20M so use 20M, 10M, or 5M lengths.

  6. Soham says:

    One possible solution to signal for help in this scenario is to use the fire extinguisher to create a smoke signal. First, make sure that everyone on the boat is wearing a flotation device in case the boat capsizes. Next, use the Swiss Army Knife or other tools from the basic tool kit to puncture a hole in the bottom of the fire extinguisher, so that the extinguishing agent can escape. Then, carefully aim the fire extinguisher towards the sky and squeeze the handle to release the agent, creating a large cloud of smoke. This smoke signal will be visible from a distance and can alert nearby boats or shore personnel to your location and need for assistance.

    In addition to the smoke signal, you can also use the anchor and chain to create a makeshift distress flag. First, use the duct tape to attach several black trash bags to the anchor chain. The black color of the trash bags will contrast with the color of the water, making the flag more visible. Then, hoist the anchor and chain up to the top of the boat’s mast or another high point on the boat, using the motorized anchor winch if it is still functional. This distress flag will serve as a visual signal to alert nearby boats or shore personnel to your distress and need for assistance.

    If possible, it may also be helpful to use the snorkeling gear to swim to shore or to a nearby boat to personally alert others of your situation and request assistance. Be sure to conserve your energy and move carefully to avoid exhausting yourself or risking hypothermia in the cold water.

  7. Mike Fish says:

    Remove the boat battery (it must have if it has a motorized anchor). Use the Swiss Army knife to cut the snorkel into two tubes. Rip some wires out of the boat and pass each through one of the tubes you made from the snorkel. Connect wires to each end of the battery, submerge the two tubes in a bucket or sink full of water from outside the boat. Use a trash bag and duct tape on the other side of the snorkel tube. The battery will cause electrolysis with the water, creating oxygen and hydrogen. If you capture the hydrogen in one trash bag it will turn it into a giant ballon. Cut the orange fabric off of the life vests and attach to the trash bag balloon along with the plastic you try off the snorkel goggles. Use the fishing line to raise the balloon into the sky. The orange of the vest will increase visibility and the plastic from the goggles will reflect the sun also hopefully increasing the likelihood of being spotted.

  8. Teresa says:

    Don’t get on a boat with out a radio avoid the whole scenario

  9. KEVIN FEARS says:

    If a storm is coming, You don’t have time or viability for a spotting. I like Bill b.s version. Presuming the battery has a charge. Or, a create a small generator.

  10. Albert Passy says:

    You need to be sailors first, McGyvers second. You want to keep from going further out to sea and widening the search radius for the USCG. You will be missed relatively soon. You need to conserve your batteries for using lights at night. Plus, if you have a motorized anchor, you’re probably big enough for running lights and a spotlight you can you for signaling during the day – you just need to weather the storm. You have water and food. Again – you have a well-appointed, ocean-capable powerboat, but (oddly) with no radio (or EPIRB). (If the boat is very small, <20 feet, it will have passive floatation, so staying with and in the boat is even more critical). I would argue that if the storm is rapidly approaching, your first priority is to weather the storm, THEN worry about rescue.

    1. Drop anchor – you will drag it during the storm, but at least it will keep you stable, and pointing into the waves. (If you are too deep for the anchor, use the mooring lines on the boat and use cushion fabric and the steering wheel to fashion a quick sea anchor – any funnel-like shape is fine – and attach it to some after part of the boat.
    2. Put on your PFDs.
    3. If time before the storm comes, use a plastic bag and part of the fishing poles to make a funnel to gather rainwater – you don't know how long you will be out.
    4. After the storm is past, if it's still daylight, you should remove one of the sinks from the boat (usually there is at least one in the head) – you will use this to create a signal firepit. If no head, you might have an outboard motor – the head of that is sometimes metal.
    You should support it on deck away from any wood, and put some couch cushion chunks and platic bags in it, with some gasoline. This will create a nice, smugey dark smoke plume that should be visible for miles. Keep the fire extinguisher ready so you don't catch the boat on fire.
    5. At night, flash the running lights/spot light SOS to attract attention.
    6. Ese the fishing gear to keep catching food.
    7. Rinse, repeat until rescue comes.

  11. Caden says:

    This will take a while but throw the anchor out towards shore then use the motor on it to pull the boat. Once you’ve reached the anchor pull it out and repeat.

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